updated 10/13/2007 7:54:18 PM ET 2007-10-13T23:54:18

A landslide at a makeshift mine in southern Colombia killed at least 21 people and injured another 18 on Saturday after local residents began digging for rumored deposits of gold, authorities said.

Efforts were under way to find about 10 people missing and presumed trapped under the wave of dirt and rock in the open pit mine, located near the town of Suarez, 220 miles southwest of the capital, Bogota.

"There are still a lot of people to rescue, and we don't know what conditions they're in," police officer Jose Delgado said by telephone from the mine. "Initially they said there were around 50 people trapped."

Officials had recovered 21 bodies and rescued 18 people who were hurt in the morning accident in the open pit mine, Delgado said.

Local residents began digging in the mine after it was reported that gold had been found underground, Delgado said. He added that many of them appeared to have little experience in tunneling or mining, and that rescue efforts were hampered by the lack of any registry or count of how many people entered the mine.

Rich in resources, but with limited government presence across much of the country, Colombia is home to many such makeshift mines, particularly in zones where gold or emeralds have been found.

With little to no oversight, mining accidents are a frequent occurrence in this Andean country.

In February a mine explosion killed 32 people. The same month another accident killed 8 more miners.

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